Social Value – the key role of Commissioning and Procurement


At the Greater Manchester Social Value Network (GMSVN) we are seeking to ensure that social value is embedded in everything that Greater Manchester as a place does. That means social value being at the heart of Greater Manchester strategy and embedded in the DNA of the public sector, businesses and the voluntary and community sector.

Just one component of that whole place approach to social value is the process of commissioning and procurement. If public authorities design goods and services with social value as a central plank, then the delivery of those goods and services are much more likely to bring a dividend in terms of social value outcomes.

Greater Manchester has a great framework for embedding social value into commissioning and procurement processes in the form of the Greater Manchester Social Value Policy, which has been in place since October 2014. This sets out six key outcomes which the process of commissioning and procurement can and should be contributing towards beyond the delivery of the good or service.

To date, the Policy has been successful in changing the behaviour of predominantly procurement teams in Greater Manchester’s ten local authorities. The challenge, however, with the Policy has been ensuring that its principles are embedded not only in the pre-contract considerations and behaviour of all public sector commissioners and procurers; but also in the subsequent behaviour of the supply chain. There are a number of ways in which commissioners and procurers can use the principles and outcomes of the Policy (these broadly follow the cycle of design and delivery of services of goods and services):

  1. Commissioners should consider the outcomes of the Policy right at the outset of the design of the good or service. In this they should be asking themselves which of the outcomes are appropriate to that particular good or service, and how the delivery of that good or service can potentially contribute to the achievement of those outcomes;
  2. Procurement teams should generally detail the outcomes of the Policy in their tender documentation, so that potential suppliers are aware of them;
  3. Where specific outcomes have been identified through the commissioning process for a particular good or service, questions should be asked of potential suppliers in their tender responses as to how they will deliver against them;
  4. Procurement teams when evaluating tender documents when evaluating tenders should score against the social value questions, much in the same way as they do for cost and quality;
  5. In the delivery of goods and services, suppliers should then ensure that they are delivering against social value outcomes and seeking support from voluntary and community sector organisations to do so, where appropriate;
  6. Suppliers should also be asked to come up with any proposals of their own that draw upon their ingenuity and ability to innovate to deliver better social value outcomes recognising that commissioners don’t know what they don’t know.
  7. Contract managers should monitor on a regular basis the achievement of social value commitments by suppliers, much in the same was as they would do for progress against budget and timeframes;

Embedding social value into commissioning and procurement does not need a re-invention of the process; it simply requires a shift in behaviour in the relevant elements of commissioning, tendering, delivery, and monitoring. Short term change will lead to longer term benefits and outcomes for the Greater Manchester economy and its residents.

Matthew Jackson is the Chair of GMSVN and the Deputy Chief Executive of the Centre for Local Economic Strategies (CLES)

The original article can be read on the GMSVN website here